Bampton Classical Opera’s Paris and Helen at St John’s Smith Square in September

BAMPTON CLASSICAL OPERA 2021 –  Christoph Willibald Gluck Paris and Helen
(1770 – 250th anniversary production)


..a work of shining beauty, an exquisite, at moments rapturous outpouring of romantic lyricism with few parallels in 18th-century opera‘  Max Loppert, Opera Magazine

Following performances at Bampton in July, and Westonbirt School on 30 August, Bampton Classical Opera (click here) will bring their highly-praised production of Gluck’s major work, Paride ed Elena to St John’s Smith Square on 24 September, which will be the first-ever London staging of this opera.

The music is of a high order throughout, scarcely explaining the almost total neglect of a significant work by a great composer.’ The Stage

‘….another hidden gem Bampton Classical Opera has unearthedSeen and Heard International

These performances have been rescheduled from 2020, which marked 250 years since the opera’s premiere in 1770. It is given in a new English translation by Gilly French as Paris and Helen. Despite its significance in Gluck’s canon and its glorious quality, Paris and Helen is very rarely performed and is little-known. The production is designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and the conductor is Thomas Blunt. Scored for four soprano voices with chorus and dancers, and with colourful and exciting orchestration, Bampton’s performances aim to bring this enchanting and sensuous work to new audiences.

Gluck’s extraordinary opera charts the passionate and tempestuous encounter between the legendary Helen and Prince Paris of Troy.  Paris ardently woos her in a sequence of ravishing arias and ensembles, including the exquisite and much-loved O del mio dolce ardor.  Bampton has gathered a wonderful cast including, as always, young professionals who are emerging into significant national and international careers.  Singing the massive and expressive role of Paris, is the soprano Ella Taylor, who won second prize in the 2020 Ferrier Awards and is making their professional stage debut.  Opposite them as the feisty Helen is Lucy Anderson, first-prizewinner in the 2019 Bampton Young Singers’ Competition.  Also new to Bampton is Lauren Lodge-Campbell, causing mischief as Amor, and we’re delighted to welcome back Lisa Howarth as Pallas Athene.

Paris – Ella Taylor
Helen – Lucy Anderson
Amor (in disguise as Erasto) – Lauren Lodge-Campbell
Pallas Athene – Lisa Howarth

Conductor – Thomas Blunt
CHROMA Ensemble

Music – Christoph Willibald Gluck
Libretto – Ranieri de’ Calzabigi
Director/designer – Jeremy Gray
Choreographer – Alicia Frost
Costume designer – Jess Iliff
Lighting – Ian Chandler
English Translation – Gilly French

Paris and Helen is the third of the so-called ‘reform’ operas (after Orfeo ed Euridice, and Alceste) in which Gluck collaborated with the librettist Calzabigi to produce a new type of music drama.  As in Orfeo, Gluck’s rejection of Baroque extravagance and ornamentation gives rise to word-setting of extraordinary lyricism.  Set in Homeric Sparta, the Trojan prince Paris arrives to seek out Helen, promised to him by Aphrodite when he chose her as the most beautiful goddess and presented the golden apple.  Despite Helen’s betrothal to Menelaus, Paris attempts to win Helen with passionate declarations of love. Helen is determined to resist despite the immediate impact the stranger makes on her, but, thanks to the persistent and playful strategies of the disguised Amor, she ultimately succumbs.  In an exciting dea ex macchina appearance Pallas Athene sternly warns of the fatal consequences of their illicit love, but her words are unheeded as the entranced lovers depart for Troy.

These performances of Paris and Helen follow Bampton’s exploration in recent years of the neglected shorter operas of Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) as well as those of his renowned protégé Antonio Salieri.  Amongst several Gluck works performed have been Il Parnaso confuso and Bauci e Filemone (believed UK premières) and in May this year the one-act opera The Crown (La corona). Bampton Classical Opera is proud to add this major work to its already extensive Gluck repertoire.

Bampton Classical Opera, a finalist in the recent 2020 International Opera Awards, enjoys a national reputation for its passionate and enlightened discoveries of rare late 18th-century operas, sung in lively new translations. Amongst these have been UK premières of Bertoni Orfeo, Isouard Cendrillon, Marcos Portugal The Marriage of Figaro, Paer Leonora, Benda Romeo and Juliet, and Salieri Falstaff.  The company works with some of the finest emerging young professional singers and stages productions in rural venues in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire as well as regularly in London at St John’s Smith Square. Other significant venues and festivals have included Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room, Buxton Festival, Cheltenham Festival and Theatre Royal Bath. Bampton Classical Opera encourages a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and with ticket prices being excellent value, their performances provide an ideal introduction to anyone unaccustomed to opera.

St John’s Smith Square is the most historic of London’s concert halls and provides an outstanding and appropriately eighteenth-century setting for this performance.

Paris & Helen, with free pre-performance talk: St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA, 7.00 pm Friday 24 September

Booking information, St John’s Smith Square
Tickets: £18, £28, £40
By Telephone: 020 7222 1061
Online click here

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